Salt. I can comment mostly on the excessive amount of the simple seasoning that was poured over every one of my dishes, and less on the actual taste, for it was clouded by the salt. After hearing multiple accounts that Michael Symon’s Roast was one of the best in the area, Michael and I hopped in our car and sped off to Detroit, not entirely aware of what we were getting ourselves into.
The restaurant, located in the heart of downtown and connected to a Westin hotel, we were greeted by two hostesses in a dimly lit foyer, who led us to an even more dimly lit dining room. The tables were large booths raised off the ground and carpeted with cushion-y vinyl. Although it was mildly comfortable, someone must have forgotten that booths are made for eating, as the table seats tilted one back so far that they were no longer in line with the table.
Our waitress greeted us promptly, and quickly handed me the drink menu, all on an iPad. The list was extensive, and came from an equally impressive bar, finished in dark wood and made to look almost black. After quickly perusing the beer menu, I settled on Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout, and let me say, it was delicious. A bourbon complimented the beer perfectly, and left me with a thick, almost chocolately drink with a high alcohol content. Perfect for sipping.
However, we didn’t come for the drinks, so we started in on the menu. Michael ordered the charcuterie board and the bone marrow for himself, and was excited to try something new. The provisions board arrived, with a variety of different meats to try, along with pickled onions and honey mustard sauce. He commented that the board’s offerings were good, but nothing special and eagerly awaited the marrow. When it arrived, two bones sliced open with the marrow seasoned in the middle, he sopped up the insides with bread, happy to have tried something different. He was mildly upset, however, that everything he had ordered thus far didn’t have any particular flair to it.
As a vegetarian, I often go into new restaurants understanding that my meal might be significantly different than my dining partners. I have been to many places with great vegetarian offerings, but some seem to fall short and only offer salads and sides. I am by no means the kind of person that would want a chef to cater to me, as I have chosen to restrict my diet, but sometimes I become bored of the tiresome options that are presented to me. Roast was no exception, with nary a entree or appetizer for me to chomp on. I decided on one of two options for my main, a goat cheese salad, and had mixed feelings about it. I was really pleased to see that the goat cheese was actual chevre, and not just the kind that comes in a tube and often sprinkled over a salad to add trendiness. The chunks were poured over arugula and mixed in with strawberries and pecans, which were all high quality and bursting with flavor. My disdain was towards the over dressing, that left my mouth unhappily vinegar-ed and unreasonably salty. Michael had ordered their soup, which was a white bean, chicken, and ham combination that left him puckering his lips and chugging his water.
Finally, our mains arrived. My soft polenta side began as a sweet mix of corn bits and cream, but rapidly ended as I realized the only seasoning in the dish was salt. Salt, salt, and more salt, was suddenly all I could taste. Michael, who ordered the “beast of the day”, was presented with shredded lamb bits topped with salsa verde and garnished with tortilla chips. “This tastes really Greek,” he mentioned, pulling out a piece of parsley from his dish. His dish too was, surprise, way too salty. We also couldn’t figure out why each beast of the day came prepared the same way, as the menu suggested.
Finally, wanting to give the place one last hope, we ordered two desserts. The beer and pretzels, which came served in a pint glass made me almost forget about the meal I had just had. Beer ice cream, topped with a caramel foam and mixed in with chocolate covered pretzels, was the perfect grown up answer to a milk shake. The ice cream was a foamy mix of cold beer and cream, which made me want to take a pint home for myself. The peaches and blackberries with sweet corn ice cream was another story, though. I imagine it was supposed to look something like a pie, as it was topped with an incredibly soupy crumble. When we dug in, it was more soup, and we quickly realized that there were no blackberries, only blueberries. The sweet corn ice cream tasted more like flavorless ice cream, and the peaches were freezer burned.
We walked out of Roast feeling incredibly disappointed. The best meals we had had recently came from renowned places, ones that didn’t have fancy chef names or big advertisements. They were just places where people wanted to make really good food, and wanted you to enjoy it too. I hate to believe that Roast is this disappointing, given the great reviews I have heard in the past, but feel like we ordered enough from the menu to get a good feel for what they had. If you really want to give it a shot, I suggest going to the bar and ordering drinks and dessert. But, if you would rather just drive around and find a place that might tickle your fancy, I advise you strongly to do so.